Atletico Madrid will have the opportunity to knock FC Barcelona out of La Liga title race when they take on Osasuna on Sunday.

Over the past few weeks, Atletico Madrid have made a strong case for being the luckiest team in Europe, as far as the La Liga title race is concerned.

Destined to fall behind their rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona in the chase despite holding the top spot, Los Colchoneros have gotten away with dropped points in two of their last five league matches, as their rivals also happened to drop points in the corresponding matchday.

It has put Atleti in the driver’s seat to secure the league title, as they are currently leading the table by two points. A win in their upcoming game against Osasuna on Sunday, in that regard, could go a long way in helping Diego Simeone’s men find themselves in a superior position come the final matchday.

It will also knock Barcelona out of the title chase, though a defeat could similarly allow Real Madrid to overtake them at the top, although Los Blancos are indeed facing a tricky test against Athletic Bilbao on the same day.

Speaking of opponents, Osasuna do not have too much to play for, as they have secured their top-flight status while having no real chance of making a late push for the top eight. Jagoba Arrasate’s men, though, will still be hoping to break into the top half of the table, and perhaps even move ahead of Bilbao with an upset this weekend.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their important matchup at Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.

Team News & Tactics

Atletico Madrid

It will be interesting to see whether Diego Simeone would want to make any changes from the side that secured a win over Real Sociedad in midweek.

Starting from the defensive unit, Felipe is competing with Jose Gimenez in the starting eleven, but the latter might just get the nod, forming the heart of the Atleti backline alongside Stefan Savic. Mario Hermoso is also a part of the backline, but in a flexible role that sees him interchange between a left-back and left-sided centre-back role.

Hermoso’s position relies heavily on Kieran Trippier, who is mostly given an attacking role. The Englishman, in fact, is one of Atletico Madrid’s main sources of creativity out wide, as he is capable of whipping in dangerous crosses.

Yannick Ferreira Carrasco could also be assigned a similar role, though in a more full-fledged attacking position. As such, the Belgian is unlikely to operate in the front three during the attacking phases but drop in a left wing-back in defence.

It will be extremely useful in the second line of press, where Simeone is likely to persist with the midfield three of Saul, Koke and Marcos Llorente. Koke is likely to feature in the deepest midfield role but is more than capable of producing penetrative forward passes for either Saul or Llorente in between the lines.

Finally, in the attack, Angel Correa could once again get the nod ahead of Joao Felix in light of his recent form. The Argentine is poised for his 200th La Liga appearance, as he spearheads the Atletico Madrid attack alongside Luis Suarez this weekend.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Oblak; Savic, Gimenez, Hermoso; Trippier, Llorente, Koke, Saul, Carrasco; Correa, Suarez

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CA Osasuna

Jagoba Arrasate’s men typically favour a 4-1-4-1 approach that can turn into a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1, depending on the situation of the game. Either way, Osasuna’s main source of supply going forward are their wide attackers in Kike Barja and Roberto Torres.

These two will primarily hope to whip in crosses for Ante Budimir, whose imposing 1.90m frame should cause problems for Atletico Madrid’s back three. Otherwise, the visitors could rely on the services of the midfield trio of Lucas Torro, Jon Moncayola and Darko Brasanac.

Alternatively, Arrasate could deploy Torres in the midfield three alongside Torro and Moncayola, allowing the ever-important Ruben Garcia to be deployed out wide. It could lead to a potential 4-4-1-1 – a similar shape that was deployed in the recent win over Cadiz.

Defensively, Torro will naturally occupy the deepest midfield role, hoping to offer the security for the central defensive pair of David Garcia and Aridane Hernandez.

The full-backs in Facundo Roncaglia, filling in for the suspended Nacho Vidal, and Juan Cruz could also play a vital role in taking care of the threat from the wide attackers like Carrasco or Llorente. It appears they could be the weakest link in this Osasuna backline.

Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Herrera; Roncaglia, D.Garcia, Hernandez, Cruz; Barja, Torro, Moncayola, R.Garcia; Torres; Budimir

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Key Stats

  • Atletico Madrid have won each of their last five Laliga games against Osasuna, scoring three or more goals in four of them. This is their best ever winning streak against Osasuna in the competition.
  • Osasuna have lost eight of their last ten away games against Atletico Madrid in La Liga (W1D1), last avoiding defeat there in August 2011 at Vicente Calderon. They have lost both of their league visits to Wanda Metropolitano without scoring.
  • Atletico Madrid have scored two or more goals in each of their last three home matches in Laliga (9 in total). The last time they scored two or more in four home league games in a row was in April 2016 (14 goals in four games).
  • No team has scored more goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half of their games than Atletico Madrid (13) in La Liga this season – meanwhile, Osasuna have conceded the highest percentage of their goals in the second half of games overall in the competition (64%, 29 of 45).
  • Angel Correa could feature in his 200th La Liga match, becoming the sixth non-Spanish player to reach this figure for Atletico Madrid in the competition, after Diego Godin (277), Filipe Luis (240), Jan Oblak (227), Luis Amaranto Perea (224) and Jorge Griffa (204).

Player to Watch

Luis Suarez

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Despite Angel Correa’s form, Luis Suarez has been undisputedly the main man for Atletico Madrid this season. His 19 goals in just 30 games have played a key role in helping Los Rojiblancos emerge as favourites to lift the title in a week’s time.

However, the Uruguayan international is experiencing a slump at the moment and has not quite looked like his best since returning from a muscle injury in late April. He has, in fact, failed to score in his last five matches, during which Atleti have dropped a valuable eight points.

Simeone, therefore, needs Suarez to return to his old groove if Atletico Madrid are to have any hopes of finishing the campaign on a strong note. The player himself has a point to prove, making him the player worth keeping an eye on in this important affair in La Liga this weekend.

Prediction

Atletico Madrid 2-0 CA Osasuna

CA Osasuna are not an opposition to be taken lightly by Atletico Madrid, especially considering their recent form. However, with Correa still finding his scoring rhythm, it won’t be surprising to see them emerge victorious in this crucial encounter at Wanda Metropolitano this weekend.

The defensive unit, in particular, is unlikely to be threatened too much by Osasuna, meaning a lot could depend on how Los Colchoneros make use of their scoring opportunities. The Hard Tackle, nonetheless, predicts a 2-0 win for the hosts.

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